Invasive Species Summary Project
Common Reed (Phragmites australis)

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Common Name:  Common Reed

Scientific Name: Phragmites australis


Kingdom: Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom:  Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision:  Spermatophyta -- Seed plants
Division:  Magnoliophyta -- Flowering plants
Class:  Liliopsida -- Monocotyledons
Subclass:  Commelinidae
Order:  Cyperales
Family:  Poaceae -- Grass family
Genus:  Phragmites Adans. -- reed P
Species:  Phragmites australis

Common reed is a tall, non-native, warm season, perennial, sod forming
grass.  The culms are erect, rigid, smooth, and hollow. It is a  herbaceous grass that reaches up to 20 feet tall and is easily recognized by its height, stems and fluffy grey/tan seed heads.  The culms may be
nearly 1 inch in diameter.  Leaves arise from the culm and are mostly 10 to 20 inches long and as much as 2 inches wide.  Common reed has an extensive rhizome network and occasionally produces stolons as well.  Common reed is often found along highways and in swampy, wet areas that have been disturbed by human impacts.

Original Distribution:
Eurasia and Africa, however it now considered native to North America.

Current Distribution:
Common reed has a nearly worldwide distribution.  It grows in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia.  In North America, its range extends from Nova Scotia to British Columbia southward throughout most of the United States and Mexico.  Though out most of its range, common reed typically forms closed, mono dominant stands along marsh and slough edges.  These stands are often dense, with up to 19 stems (live and dead) per square
foot (200/sq m).

Site and Date of Introduction:
Native to Eurasia, Africa, but now widespread throughout the world; throughout United States, Mexico, West Indies to Chile and Argentina, and Australia.  There is no specific introduction site or date. Common reed grows where ever humans have disturbed or degraded environment.

Common reed is found in the following ecosystems:
Spruce - fir,   Oak - hickory,  Oak - gum - cypress, Elm - ash - cottonwood, Maple - beech - birch, Ponderosa pine, Western hardwoods, Sagebrush, Pinyon - juniper, Mountain grasslands, Plains grasslands, Prairie and Wet grasslands.
Common reed is found in the following states in the US:

Common reed is found in the following physiographic regions:
Northern Pacific Border, Cascade Mountains, Southern Pacific Border, Sierra Mountains, Columbia Plateau, Upper Basin and Range, Lower Basin and Range,  Northern Rocky Mountains, Middle Rocky Mountains, Wyoming Basin,  Southern Rocky Mountains, Colorado Plateau,  Rocky Mountain Piedmont, Great Plains, Black Hills Uplift, Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands.

Mode(s) of Introduction:
Phragmites is a prolific seed spreader and soil movement easily deposits its rhizomes. Humans, animals, machines, water, and wind all enable the spread of this plant.

Reasons Why it has Become Established:
Common reed easily reproduces in disturbed area. It can easily takeover an area when there is environmental stress and degradation. Especially since other native plants that may inhabit a common niche are not as resilient to harsh conditions and changes in the environment.

Ecological Role:
Common reed does provide suitable habitat for many native species of birds and other animals. It provides shelter and coverage for an array of wildlife and to some extent food. Wildlife will  forage on  young stalks and seeds.  It also acts as a soil stabilizer, controlling erosion.


Threats: Control Level Diagnosis:
Medium to High
Common reed is drastically changing composition of salt marshes and other ecosystem.  This has led to the reduction in biodiversity in the niches it encompasses, which is practically everywhere.

Control Method:
Recommendations for Common reed control include the use of herbicides, mowing, disking, dredging, flooding, draining, burning, and grazing. The most widespread and successful approach appears to be the application of glyphosate (a herbicide) late in the growing season, followed by prescribed burning or mechanical removal of dead stalks.  One reason for the reliance on chemical control is that habitat management such as cutting, mowing and disking actually encourages the spread of Phragmites.  However, chemical is not species specific and should be used with caution.  Many experts suggest a combination of methods, done repetitively and continuously for many years.

Author: Renee Portanova
Last Edited: March 5, 2002

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